Nathan Robinson from ‘Current Affairs’ has an excellent opinion piece out, where he argues that the big problem with paywalls is that while you’re keeping quality knowledge and information behind bars, fake news remains in the open and free.
Wow! Think about it for a second; as traditional publishers of information, content and news are trying to get to gribs with a new digital subscription model – because the world – needs more quality information (and it truly does), they run the huge risk of alienating people and sending them in the arms of fringe, fake media instead.
The problem is only magnified in countries, where (1) people have little tradition for spending the time actually analyzing what they see, read and hear to judge it’s quality and/or (2) are ill-equipped to do so in the first place through the sheer lack of a proper education.
The good question is: What do we do, if we both want to preserve and expand the quality of information while at the same time not shooting ourselves in the foot?
Again the answer is: The business model.
While it is super great that media can get some people to pay for content, we need to make sure that we also have a valid and great proposition for those who won’t or can’t pay directly.
Advertising has been tried and has failed, so what’s left?
Maybe it’s time to think in new ways of being of service for people in a way that more people WILL actually pay for and then throw in access to all the quality stuff as an add-on or bonus, if you will.
Will it be enough to effectively combat fake news that will always remain free and alluring for people? Maybe not. But what is pretty clear by now is that something new needs to happen.
And yes, I know a lot of publishers will say it’s not their job, and they have a different role.
But this is one of those instances, where they need to realize that if they want to keep a free, open and democratic society, they need to play a bigger part in trying to uphold it.
A part that does not only get the elite onboard but gets the masses engaged in the right way and leave the sea, fake news and extremists are fishing in with far, far less fish.